Bayonne Mayor James Davis is attacking his main opponent in the May 10 municipal election, City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, over a donation made by a law firm to a political action committee (PAC) that previously supported two of her council candidates in an unrelated Board of Education election.
Matawan-based law firm Cleary, Giacobbe, Alfieri, and Jacobs, which former Special Redevelopment Counsel and Ashe-Nadrowski campaign manager Joe DeMarco is a part of, donated $2,600 to America’s Future First in June of 2021, according to the Davis campaign.
The Washington D.C.-based PAC spent approximately $104,371 on campaign mailers throughout 2021, confirmed by filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The filings show four disbursements of funds for “mailing” to Gateway Media LLC over the course of 2021 which total approximately $104k.
Davis claims $88,000 from the PAC, which he alleged was “funded by some of the biggest pay-to-play donors in New Jersey,” went toward supporting the re-election of the “Together We Can” slate in November of 2021. The slate, which was not endorsed by the mayor, included both Board of Education President Maria Valado and Trustee Jodi Casais who are now running on the “Let’s Fix Bayonne Together” city council slate with Ashe-Nadrowski.
However, the disbursements are listed as “other” with the FEC, and do not mention Casais nor Valado. While it is confirmed that the PAC was behind at least one mailer for the “Together We Can” slate in the school board election, the actual extent of their involvement is not documented in FEC filings.
Regardless, Valado and Casais won re-election, which the Davis campaign said was due in part to the help of the PAC. According to Davis, this allowed Ashe-Nadrowski to “take control of the Board of Education.”
In February of this year, the Board of Education approved a contract with Cleary, Giacobbe, Alfieri, and Jacobs, which has so far paid the firm approximately $40,000. The Davis campaign is alleging the previous $2,600 donation by the law firm led to the awarding of the aforementioned contract to it. Davis is also alleging that DeMarco, who is a campaign manager for Ashe-Nadrowski, benefits from this.
“It’s completely hypocritical for Sharon Nadrowski to talk about transparency when she is being backed by Joe DeMarco and a shady web of multiple dark money Super PACs,” said Davis campaign spokesman Phil Swibinski.
However, according to the FEC filing, the donation is listed as being for a “primary” and does not mention the school board election. The timing in June came before the June 8, 2021 primary, and also prior to the “Together We Can” slate announcing their run in July of 2021 for the school board election on November of 2021.
Regardless, the Davis campaign is alleging that Cleary, Giacobbe, Alfieri, and Jacobs’ donation to America’s Future First is what led to the Board of Education recently awarding a contract to the law firm.
The Ashe-Nadrowski campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Donations and PACs
Though this particular PAC has not been active in this election, the topic of similar entities and political donations has been a point of contention throughout the election. This is the fourth PAC that has entered the political discourse in Bayonne.
The first was the Government for the People PAC, founded by former state Senator Ray Lesniak to support Davis’ bid for a third term, but was nixed after political consultant Sean Caddle plead guilty to a murder-for-hire plot. Caddle was paid $2,500 by the PAC before the plug was pulled.
Another PAC, The Citizens for Strength and Security Fund, has been behind the “Dirty Davis” ad campaign throughout 2021 and 2022. And the Committee to Advance New Jersey PAC has been behind a handful of mailers in favor of Ashe-Nadrowski. The Davis campaign has accused her of being behind the PACs, and called for the release of a list of donors. The Ashe-Nadrowski campaign has denied this, but Team Davis persists.
“Bayonne voters have a right to know who is funding Nadrowski’s sleazy campaign, but she refuses to come clean,” said Swibinski. “Are her multiple dark money PACs being funded by big developers looking to build in Bayonne neighborhoods? How can anyone trust that she will stand up for residents when she won’t reveal her financial backers? Bayonne voters deserve to know, and we will not stop working to expose Nadrowski’s shady network of dark money and pay-to-play.”
And the discussion of alleged political donations for contracts is not a new one in Bayonne. The city’s garbage and recycling collection contract has come under fire after it was awarded to A + L Disposal LLC in June of 2021, the same month the owner Joseph Bolowski purchased a new pickup truck for the Office of Emergency Management. The city indicated said the donation was rescinded, but at the time, Ashe-Nadrowski noted the council was not aware it.
Additionally, in terms of political donations, Davis recently announced he would donate previous campaign contributions from United Water and Suez Water he accepted back in 2015 and 2017 after being called out by Casais. Davis blamed his former campaign manager and former Business Administrator DeMarco, who he claimed he fired (although Davis said he resigned at the time of DeMarco’s departure from City Hall) and said the $3,500 in Suez contributions will be donated to The Windmill Alliance, a local charity that helps developmentally disabled adults in the community.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.